As Pavel described in a recent post, the ultimate guide to the SAT requires a steady march along the Path to Competence. That being said, there are a few SAT strategies that are so essential – so crucial to success – that, if ignored, might torpedo the advances you’ve made towards doing the best you can.
Here’s our list of five must-do SAT strategies. While some of them seem obvious, they are all hugely important. Think of this as your to-do list in the months and weeks before the SAT!
1. Be familiar with the test.
In order to understand how to succeed on the SAT, you need to, well, know how the SAT works. This means understanding how much time is in each section, how the test is scored, and how many breaks there are. The best way to prepare for this is to read the College Board’s description of the test structure. Also, try taking a few practice tests to figure out the timing. If you’d like to take a Math section practice tests with Lemma, try this one.
2. Manage your time well.
Time management is an essential part of success in all endeavors, but especially the SAT! If I told you that I got every answer right on my SAT you’d be pretty impressed…But, what if I added the point that I managed my time poorly and only answered half the questions… I bet you’d think of my score a little differently!
Lot’s of students struggle with running out of time while taking the test. (I did). The best technique for dealing with this problem is to skip a problem that is tripping you up. Finish all the questions that you can first before circling back to the more difficult ones. Just be very careful with filling in the bubbles correctly when you start going out of order!
3. Condition yourself
It’s important to acclimatize yourself to specific conditions and to use memory techniques when studying. Popular memory techniques range from somewhat intuitive to totally bizarre. Some people even advise chewing the same type of gum while studying and taking the test, or even wearing the same clothes!
A perhaps more reasonable suggestion is that you study the same way you take the test. Doing one Problem of the Day with a service like ours (or the myriad of others) is not bad for your test preparation. However, it is very important that you try to simulate the test as best you can. Try to find a quiet room to study and practice, avoid playing music in the background, and turn your phone off for a little. The best way to condition yourself is to try to simulate the actual conditions you’ll be taking the test in!
4. Guessing when you don’t know the answer
Ah guessing… one of the most often discussed test-taking techniques. But for good reason! You aren’t penalized for wrong answers on the SAT, so if you don’t know the exact answer to a question, first try to eliminate answers you know are not options. Check out this example:
Question: At Lemma, the cost \(C\), in US Dollars, of producing \(n\) Chalkboard Robots is expressed by \(C=12n+261\). Lemma sells these robots for the all-too-low price of $15. Lemma makes a profit when the total income generated from our robots is greater than the cost of production \(C\). Which of the following inequalities defines all possible values for \(n\) where Lemma makes a profit?
No need to do all the work on this one- unless you want to. The point is that you recognize that option c is out of the question because the question isn’t asking anything about Cost \(C\), but how many robots we gotta huck before making some dough!
If you have absolutely no idea on where to even begin on a question, just guess. Like I said, you aren’t penalized, so just go for it!
5. Don’t Cram and get some sleep!
The social science backs the intellectual ridiculousness of cramming. The problem with crammers is that sometimes they do generate results. I’m sure you have someone in your life who you swear only studies for a test the day beforehand and always gets good grades. Maybe you’re that student! But the SAT isn’t a reading quiz. Well, it kinda is…But it’s a really big reading quiz.
The best technique is steady practice in the months before the test and a good night’s sleep the night before. DO NOT stay up all night cramming the even-b quadratic equation into your head your overall performance will suffer as a result!
To Wrap Up:
If you follow these 5 easy no-brainers, you’ll be well on your way to success on the SAT. If you combine these strategies with following the Path to Competence, you’ll be a superstar. Hard work and diligence are the ultimate tools for beating the SAT!